Generational gaps within the workplace are nothing new—how members of different generations relate to one another has challenged employers for decades. Incorporating young talent with more experienced workers can be a delicate balancing act that requires time, skill and strategic planning. There are currently three generations in the workforce, each with a specific, defining set of characteristics. The oldest are the baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964; they tend to be job-focused with a strong emphasis on job security and stability. Generation X, or “Gen-Xers,” were born between 1965 and 1981 and value work-life balance and resourcefulness. Finally, Generation Y, or “millennials,” are those born between 1982 and 2001 and seek challenge and meaning in their work with an even greater emphasis on autonomy, work-life balance and flexibility. Catering one’s management style to adapt to these significant differences in employee temperaments, values, work ethic and job expectations can be difficult. Regardless of one’s age or length of time in the workplace, employees need to feel heard—that their ideas and concerns are being acknowledged and addressed. Below are three best practices in managing employees of differing generations:
Combine multiple forms of communication
The rapid pace of technological development in the past few decades has created a far wider rift in communication between generations than ever before seen. Clear communication, however, is an integral part of every ambulatory surgery center in bolstering both operational efficiency and patient satisfaction. While baby boomers prefer to communicate in-person or via telephone, Gen-Xers are typically described as more “tech-savvy,” preferring interactions via email. Millennials expect even greater speed when communicating; texting and email chat platforms are their preferred forms of communication—even in the workplace. Thus, it has become critical to use multiple methods of communication to ensure a message reaches all employees. Holding an in-person meeting with a follow-up summary sent via email is an effective way to pair different communication preferences. Mixing and blending these different forms will make the announcement accessible to all employees, no matter their ages. Frequently asking for questions and feedback also is helpful to assess employees’ understanding of the message and clarify any confusion or miscommunication.
Use recognition, growth opportunities to motivate
Employee engagement is key in daily ASC operations. Recognition and appreciation of employees’ dedication and effort is always a good motivator to ensure continued success. While baby boomers are content with a brief “thank you” or even a card, studies show millennials prefer more frequent communication around their performance. Indeed, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers study, while baby boomers and Gen-Xers were previously accustomed to annual employee reviews, millennials prefer performance assessments and feedback far more often to determine not only what they are doing well, but also what they can improve upon. Similar to offering consistently timed reviews, it is critical to provide employees growth opportunities and a clearly-defined career path within the ASC. This will motivate employees of all ages to work efficiently and move toward a specific goal. Because millennials also tend to tire of repetition in the workplace, they often seek new jobs after just one or two years of work. To combat this trend of high turnover, identify new projects, tasks or assignments for younger employees to focus on to add variety to their everyday routines while increasing organization-wide efficiency.
Encourage mixed media in training, mentoring
Orientation is arguably one of the most critical times of an employee’s journey in the workplace. While orientation is a time to relay key information regarding employee expectations and facility policies, it is important to once again remember the difference in communication styles. While training previously involved a staff member walking new hires through the facility, lecturing and perhaps distributing a few handouts, Gen-Xers and millennials now respond more positively to tech-based training. Transferring some of your orientation information to online portals and classes could result in greater efficiency and make the material more accessible to newer, younger employees. In addition to the initial training period, consistent mentoring between all age groups on staff is paramount. Younger employees enjoy learning from the experience and wisdom of older employees, who in turn can learn an open and fresh perspective from a younger generation. Harnessing these two ends of the spectrum to collaborate on ASC projects may result in new, more efficient or effective ways to complete tasks.
By focusing on results, while remembering the safety policies and procedures instilled during orientation, employees are encouraged to work together and learn from one another, infusing the workplace with a greater sense of meaning and engagement. While one’s generation can predict some of his or her basic character traits, it is important to avoid overlooking insufficient work performance as a result of an employee’s age. ASC management must fairly assess employees’ performance while keeping in mind their work ethic, values and personality. It is not fair to attribute one employee’s character faults, such as laziness or immaturity, to an entire generation. Although it is important to consider the individual needs and values of employees, it is critical to keep the entire staff focused on the ASC’s mission statement and common goals. Encouraging employees to collaborate to achieve those goals will keep your staff engaged and productive. At the same time, it is unreasonable to expect employees to change behaviors and beliefs inherent to their age; rather, adopting a flexible and adaptable management style is key to achieving success and an efficient, collaborative spirit in the workplace.
To learn more about managing different generations in the ASC workplace, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.